Italian student likes Custer’s culture

While Italian exchange student Giulia (pronounced “Julia”) Buonamassa says there are people and things she misses about her homeland, she already knows she will miss being in America when she goes home to Milan this summer. Buonamassa, a high school junior, came to spend a semester at Custer High School in mid-January and says it has been one of the best experiences of her life.
With regard to the things she misses back home, Buonamassa said she, of course, misses her parents and grandparents but she particularly misses her only sibling and identical twin sister Gaia who is also doing a semester as an exchange student in the Minneapolis suburb of Chaska, Minn. She said it’s the longest the pair have been separated since Giulia spent two weeks touring Dublin, Ireland and London, England in her middle school years.
She said the separation was difficult at first but talking or texting every day has helped. The twins flew to the U.S. together in January and then split up to go to their individual assignments.
Buonamassa said she and her sister wanted to study in America in order to improve their English, “but more for the experience of changing and also of learning a new culture.” She said her unfamiliarity with the language made school difficult at first. Sometimes teachers talked too fast or used “more elevated words” that she couldn’t understand. But after two and a half months it has gotten much easier. She said she understands much more English but is still working on speaking it fluently.
While in Custer Buonamassa is staying with Matt and Caralee Weber and their four school aged children. She said it has been a big change for her to have four younger siblings but she is enjoying it.
Asked what she likes best about America, Buonamassa said it’s the friendliness of the people. In fact, she said it was one of the things that surprised her about the country.
“In Italy people are friendly but most of the time only if they know each other,” she said. “Sometimes you’re in the mall (here) and people just smile at you and you never see that (in Italy).”
Buonamassa struggled to come up with the right words in English to describe what she likes most about Custer and the Black Hills but said she loves the scenery, and expressed “I feel free sometimes!”
Beyond the outgoing nature of most Americans, Buonamassa said she has noticed a number of other cultural differences as well. For instance she was surprised by how different school is in the U.S.
A big difference is the part that sports play in the school system. She said in Italy sports are not an extracurricular part of school but are actually non-curricular. In other words, students have to pay to play and participation is outside of school hours.
She said she likes the fact that in Custer football and basketball games are a part of the social life of not only the students but the whole community.
Buonamassa said she enjoys the school’s emphasis not only on education but on the social life of the student body, noting the school seems to care more about the social life of the students.
“We also don’t have, like, prom or dances and these things,” she said. “We don’t have the yearbook. We just have school and subjects to study.”
Buonamassa said she is also enjoying spending time with her host family and has even gotten involved in the church youth group.  
Coming from the large and important northern Italian city of Milan, Buonamassa said she has grown up around the fashion industry where her mother is employed. Milan is the home of famous Italian design firms like Gucci and Prada, and she has hopes of eventually working in the business end of the fashion world.
When school lets out in May, Buonamassa hopes that her parents will come to the U.S. and the family can spend time seeing more of the country before returning home.
One more thing Buonamassa said she misses about home is Italian food. She notes that many places claim to serve Italian food but offer dishes she’s never seen in her country. One of those is fettuccine alfredo. While it sounds Italian, the dish is widely believed to have been invented in America.
“I really like the community of Custer,” said Buonamassa, noting she appreciates the opportunities she has been given here. “It seems like they are a big family.”

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